US jazz stars to bring Christmas spirit to Kenya

Kirk Whalum, Gerald Albright, Norman Brown and fast-rising jazz artist Sheléa Frazier are set to entertain Kenyan music lovers in Nairobi and Mombasa in December. The four will kick off Safaricom's ‘A Gospel According to Jazz’ Christmas tour at the Carnivore Grounds in Nairobi on Thursday 3 December before taking the show to Mombasa’s Haller Park on Saturday 5 December.

Kirk Whalum. Photo: www.about.me
Kirk Whalum. Photo: www.about.me

The concerts are part of the Safaricom Jazz Lounge series of events that are the build-up to the Safaricom International Jazz Festival, to be held in February 2016. This will be the first performance of its kind in the coastal city of Mombasa since the launch of the Safaricom Jazz Lounge.

Kirk Whalum is a 12-time Grammy-nominated jazz saxophonist. He won his first Grammy in 2011 for Best Gospel Song ('It’s What I Do' ft. Lalah Hathaway) alongside lifelong friend and gifted writer Jerry Peters. Of an equally high standing in the jazz world is Gerald Albright, an American jazz saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist who has sold over 1 000 000 albums in the US alone. His self-produced music features him on bass guitar, keyboards, flutes, drum programming and background vocals. Born in Shreveport, Louisiana and raised in Kansas City, Norman Brown first picked up a guitar at the age of eight. He released his debut album Just Between Us in 1992 and followed this with the gold-certified After the Storm (1994) and 1996's Better Days Ahead (1996) and his more recently Sending my Love (2010). In 2012 Albright and Brown collaborated on 24/7, which was nominated for at the 2013 Grammies for Best Pop Instrumental Album.

Sheléa Fraizer’s is considered one of the most exhilarating up and coming jazz artists today. While donning multiple hats of vocalist, songwriter, pianist, arranger and producer, Shelea evokes the sultry energy of Whitney Houston and the piano chops and writing prowess of Alicia Keys. Her 2013 debut album, Love Fell On Me, is a sophisticated blend of traditional pop, jazz, R&B and soul.

These four American heavyweights take to the African stage this December and are sure to wow Kenyan jazz lovers. Curtain-raising for the awesome foursome will be Kenyan acts AfroSync and Edward Parseen & the Different Faces Band. Afrosync is a talented band made up of Zach Amunga, Tim Riungu, Uledi Dzidze, George Mutinda and MacKinley Mutsembi, who specialize in playing jazz, Latin and contemporary African music. Parseen, meanwhile, is a talented saxophonist, vocalist and trumpeter who together with the Different Faces Band lights up the crowds with their skillful mastery of jazz. Started in 2008, Different Faces are made up of bass player Etienne Mangala, Shabaan Musyoka on drums, keyboard player Moses Njoroge (a classically trained pianist, producer and resident keyboardist for Coke Studio Africa), and guitarist Issack Kimetto. Together they offer smooth contemporary African jazz.

These concerts are held as a build-up to the 2016 edition of the Safaricom Jazz Festival in February, where American saxophonist Branford Marsalis is scheduled to headline. Earlier this year in August the Safaricom Jazz Festival hosted Malian legend Salif Keita at Nairobi's Bomas of Kenya.

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